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Ultraverse Revisited: Early House Ads August 1993

ultraverse_revisited

Here are house ads from the third month of the Ultraverse line: August 1993! We have one full-page and one split-page ad for actual Ultraverse titles, one for the "other" group of Malibu titles (that preceded the Ultraverse line), and then the "Ultrafiles" pages which were all the same across the various titles.

ultraverse_ads_firearm

I’m almost certain this ad was the first I saw of the Firearm character. It’s certainly (to me) an "iconic" image–something far too lacking in modern comics! This title would be one featuring a "non-Ultra" dealing with a world of Ultras. Though I recognize James Robinson now by name, the name didn’t stand out whatsoever to me in 1993, where I barely knew creator names.

I like the continued "tag line" nature of text on the ad…this would be right at home on an ’80s/’90s action flick.

ultraverse_ads_hardcase_strangers_prime_04s

This is the first of the house ads to 1. feature multiple titles and 2. be for something other than a #1 issue. I like the use of the single page to show off three titles. Not every issue needs a full page, but seeing the stuff at all puts it or keeps it "on the radar" as well as showing at least part of an image to be on the watch for, in terms of covers.

As with text on other ads, getting a "blurb" about the issues goes a long way in letting one know what to expect, to be "sold" on an issue along with having art from the cover(s).

ultraverse_ads_genesis

Genesis is not Ultraverse, but IS Malibu. I’m nearly certain this ad is what put most of these titles on my mental radar as a kid. To this day, I don’t think I’ve gotten all chapters of this Genesis story arc, but I’ve certainly meant to, and probably have several duplicates by way of getting issues when I’ve seen them in bargain bins.

Though this "line" went away not long after the Ultraverse hit, it’s one that I’ve contemplated digging into as a "finite universe" of issues. Whether I’ve known it in the past or not, I don’t consciously recall details about bringing these titles together as a group vs. the fresh launch of the Ultraverse, but that’s a topic I’ll surely research later for my own curiosity.

ultrafiles_august1993a

Some things never change, and it’s interesting to me to see this "time capsule" bit of having to "pre-order" comics at a local shop to be able to get a copy.

ultrafiles_august1993b

With only six covers displayed across the bottom of these pages, we’re missing the Hardcase cover. Not a huuuuge deal, but I would think with so few titles it could be worked in somewhere.

The "preview" of the Wrath character on this second page is interesting: at first glance I thought it was Marvel‘s Omega Red. I’m sure it’s the hair/color and the red/white color scheme. Also, this is from the ’90s, where many visual designs seemed to feed off each other as ‘trends’ and such.


And here we are–another "month" of Ultraverse books completed! Not many house ads this time around, and I noticed that none of the titles had an ad for The Solution, which also premieres in the September 1993 group with Firearm. I strongly suspect that is part of how I initially missed the title. The ads certainly helped cement the first issue covers as "iconic" for me, and so it’s odd that one title out of 8 or so got "left out."

NEXT WEEK: I’ll begin Month #4 of the Ultraverse with titles released for September 1993!

ultraverse_early_house_ads_august1993_blogtrailer

Ultraverse Revisited: Early House Ads July 1993

ultraverse_revisited

Here are house ads from the second month of the Ultraverse line: July 1993! We have two with dates, one without…and then the "Ultrafiles" pages which were all the same this month across all five titles.

ultraverse_ads_prototype

I’m pretty sure that this one for Prototype is my favorite of the month’s ads. There’s just something to the design of the armor that I really like, and I swear this scanned image doesn’t do the print version justice…there’s just something I really like about the coloring. And as with many ads for comics, I really, really like the fact that the promo image basically IS the cover of the first issue. This shows us the character, as well as the image to look for to get the actual comic itself!

Helpful as the "text boxes" may have been on the first round of ads, I find the "tagline" format to be more effective here, making the ad more of a poster image than something in a pamphlet.

ultraverse_ads_exiles

Fighting to Save Themselves From Mankind and Mankind From Itself. Another large-font, central sort of tagline for a new title. Exiles gave us another super-team (seemed the Ultraverse was full of those!) and definitely has a very ’90s look from the ad.

ultraverse_ads_rune

Lacking both tagline AND text box, we have this add with some character and the small Rune logo serving almost as a signature, with the large-text format of Barry Windsor-Smith. This also lacked any date. So we had this image of something called Rune, associated with BWS, and based on other ads, one would only assume this was another title or such "coming soon."

Of course, years later, it’s interesting to look back on it, especially knowing that October 1993 became "Rune Month" with a 3-page story-chunk as flipbooks to the month’s issues, that collectively made up the contents to a Rune #0 issue, with coupons to send away for the standalone #0 issue as its own thing. But more on that in posts to come, as the house ads get closer to the ‘event’ itself.

ultrafiles_july1993a

Where text was swapped out for the Ultrafiles pages to make them unique to each title in the June 1993 issues, for July 1993 they seemed to all be exactly the same, and show all 5 titles out for Ultraverse month #2. The first page (above) is the "Ultratorial #2."

ultrafiles_july1993b

…while the second Ultrafiles page has quick quotes from the creators on the two new additions to the line: Freex and Mantra.

I really like these pages as a common piece across all titles, as well as the "checklist" of showing the covers of the month’s issues. And again, this was a time when the vast majority of comics DID only have one cover…or the "variant" was some sort of spot-coloring or foil in place of color or the presence or not of a UPC box. Not completely different art pieces!

Essentially, the issues thus showed off all of the current month’s titles, plus most of the  issues had full-page ads for the next month’s new series’ debuts. One would not even need the internet or such to know what they’re looking for in shops; one has what one needs from the actual single issue…NO "homework" required.

ultraverse_early_house_ads_july1993_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: Justice League America #70

jusice_league_america_0070Grieving

Words, Layouts: Dan Jurgens
Finishes: Rick Burchett
Letters: Willie Schubert
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Asst. Edits: Ruben Diaz
Edits: Brian Augustyn
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1993
Cover Price: $1.25

It’s been a lotta years since I read this issue. Honestly, well longer than I’d tend to care to admit otherwise, but most of my re-readings of the "entire" Death of Superman story have been via that original collected volume, or the Roger Stern novelization, or the audio drama. And I tend to stop there–I know I’ve been through the novel several times, and the World Without a Superman/Funeral For a Friend collected volume at least a couple times…but this issue? This Justice League America "tie-in" is not included in the original edition of World Without a Superman. And though the previous issue was far more relevant to the lead-in to the main, sustained Doomsday fight, this one splits off from the core narrative focusing on Superman himself (as chronicled in the Superman-centric titles and such) and focuses more on the League, and these characters’ reactions to and ramifications from the Doomsday battle.

justice_league_america_0070_noflapOn this read-through, it was like reading the issue for the first time. When the Flash showed up, and Batman, and Hawkman, and Aquaman…despite a slight sense of deja vu in the back of my mind, it still surprised me. Looking at this issue’s cover, I remembered some loose, broad strokes–Blue Beetle in a coma, Booster’s suit destroyed, Ice devastated and Guy none to happy about her reaction–but I didn’t remember the details of the issue, the smaller moments. I remember some loose bits from some issues shortly after this–and the fact OF having READ the issues comprising Destiny’s Hand and leading to Justice League America‘s OWN 75th issue–but this is not quite the hyper-familiar territory I’d assumed it was for myself.

This issue opens with us on-site in Metropolis, Superman dead, Lois cradling his body…even an abbreviated, slightly alternate narration to the final moments of Superman #75…and into the early moments of Adventures of Superman #498, the start of the numbered chapters of Funeral For a Friend. And we’re split off, away from the Superman-family focus, and see the League reacting. Booster and Maxima were in the hospital watching over Ted–Blue Beetle. Maxima is rather matter-of-fact about Superman’s death, though she’s far from happy about it…and Booster is in a rough place–Superman’s died, his best friend is in a hospital bed in a coma, and his own suit–the entirety of/source of his powers–is shredded and likely beyond 20th century science to repair. Ice is devastated, Fire comforts her. Guy and Maxima have a go at each other…and other heroes from across the DC Universe begin to congregate, unsure of how or where to properly pay their respects, and finding comfort in the group, even as many lament the loss and wonder why it had to be Superman. The heroes don black memorial armbands with Superman’s shield, though they recognize it’s not much. And we close with Booster at Ted’s bedside, admitting that he doesn’t know WHAT he’d do if Ted dies, too.

The art is both spot-on and yet a little bit off at points for me. Stuff with Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and the other heroes seems fine, and overall this looks like the characters I’d expect, and as I would expect, visually. There are just panels–particularly one of Ice–where facial details seem just slightly off, or not as refined as I’d expect or want. Still, that stuff is rather nitpicky, and barely worth the mention. As a whole, this looks like the Justice League America I recall, and the other characters from the DCU look good and as I’d recall them for the tail-end of 1992’s publishing.

The story is very relevant, as one ought to expect, given this is written by Jurgens, the same writer of Superman, so it’s far from being an "outsider’s" version of this stuff. And given that, the differences or "alternate" takes on stuff, I totally chalk up to being intentional, holding the Justice League America continuity to itself–acknowledging the event and stuff from the Superman titles, but NOT forcing folks to read all of those. (Though there is an editorial note referring readers to Superman #75 prior to reading this). Jurgens seems to carry through ongoing plot threads that seem to have been going on in the title, and for lack of better phrasing, moves pieces around the board to set up the tail-end of his run on the title, getting the characters into Destiny’s Hand.

I see this issue in bargain bins far less often than random chapters from the Superman books, both of The Death of Superman and Funeral for a Friend. I’m relatively certain the copy of the issue I read this time was from a bargain bin, as I don’t believe it’s my original copy (the newsstand barcode gives that away, my original was from a comic shop and had a bleeding-S shield, I believe). While this hardly sits in a vacuum, it does seem like it can somewhat be read as a one-off. It’s an intermediary issue, bridging the pre-Doomsday run and what’s to come…giving characters’ reactions post-Death of Superman, but not yet implementing changes that would carry the League forward after the death.

I would definitely recommend this issue if you find it for a quarter or 50 cents or even $1-ish. I believe there were two editions, and apparently that carried to the newsstand as well–one version that’s just the standard cover; and another with a red and white overlay. The sole difference is really the overlay itself–present or not. The cover and interior under the overlay is the same. Either version is quite worth it, though the one with the overlay has a bit more of a visual distinction…and sits most nostalgic in my mind, as that’s what I got back in 1992.

Quite a trip down memory lane, and has me all the more eager to get around to actually READING the Superman and Justice League America vol. 1 and (once I acquire it) vol. 2.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #112

wonder_woman_0112Game Over

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

There was little doubt in my mind of Wonder Woman’s survival…more just a matter of “how” the story would end.

We have a much smaller time gap between issues this time, as we open in the midst of the battle with “Doomsday,” which we do know is not the REAL creature, but more a sort of “clone” being fed power from the machine that allowed its creation. Given the enormity of the situation, and the significance of Doomsday (apparently) showing up, it’s no surprise that we get a guest-bit with Superman…a family moment as he places a tree he got for his parents, right before Jonathan pulls up to share a radio report of the creature’s presence. Superman heads off intending to join the battle, despite his parents urging him not to. While Wonder Woman and Champion join forces against the creature, and even Cassie gets into the mix, stuff at Lazarus’ place comes to a head as the authorities arrive to take him into custody over the situation. His “son” the computer spawns yet another creature that kills on the spot, and finally a last-ditch idea is tried…that resolves the situation, allowing the creature’s defeat (before Superman even gets there), and an almost too-neat wrapup to this 4-issue chunk of the series.

As with the last three chapters, this was solid overall, particularly on the art. I liked that the story “expanded” a bit, and brought Superman into play–it only makes sense that he’d be made aware of Doomsday seemingly showing up again, and would NOT make sense to not even give any time to his reaction, or that of anyone who knows him. This is also placed as being during that time when Superman and Lois were broken up…which gives me a better “consciousness” as to the timing of this issue and why I was so totally unaware of Doomsday’s appearances in the previous issue and this one: this came out while I was “out of” comics, between the end of The Trial of Superman and prior to the Superman Wedding and then the Electric Costume saga.

There’s nothing “new” really to say on the art–the creative credits have been the same across all 4 issues unless I’ve misread something somewhere, and what I’ve said before holds true to this issue as well. Perhaps the fact that we get Byrne drawing the mid-’90s Superman with the longer hair is another plus (adding to what I’d said earlier about seeing Byrne tackle Doomsday).

Story-wise, my only primary complaint is the seemingly over-the-top language spouted by Ma and Pa Kent in the Superman bit–that just seemed so shoe-horned in/exaggerated that it didn’t ring true at all to my reading…despite the fact that Byrne was the one that did the early work on the Kents being alive into Clark’s adulthood and seeing him be Superman.

The end of this issue–and ostensibly the “story arc”–seemed a bit quick and almost too-tidy as a wrapup, with some exposition trying to suggest this could never happen again, Lazarus rather quickly coming around about the truth of it not actually being his son truly in the computer, etc. Echoing comments I made with one of the other chapters, this is very much from the era when it was relatively RARE for a collected volume to be put out, with only the biggest, most sold-out stories getting a volume. This was still single issues as the primary focus…such that I don’t even know what to call this four part story. With issue names like “Level 1,” “Level 2,” “Level 3,” and “Game Over,” I suppose it COULD be called Game Over (and probably would with a modern-day collection put out), but there’s no overall title, of which the names would (with a contemporary 2016 comic) would be “sub titles” within the arc’s title.

For an 80-cent overall cost to me for Wonder Woman #s 109-112, this was absolutely a real treat to read, and leaves me confident in the fun nature of Byrne‘s run on the title, and very much interested in carving out some more time (eventually) to read this series at length…along with the likes of the Wally West Flash series.

If you find these issues–this one, or the previous several–they’re definitely well worth bargain-bin pricing (up to $1ish each), as the four issues at even $1 would be the cost of a single current issue…and this story is more than worth the price of a single current comic. As this is not actually part of some large, singular overall story, one could even conceivably dive in here, with the majority of what you need to know being that Wonder Woman’s engaged in battle with fake-Doomsday, and how things go and get wrapped up. The stuff with Lazarus and his wife/companion even give what would seem to be enough context and exposition to let one “get” the basics of what is–and has been–going on to get to this issue.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #111

wonder_woman_0111Level 3

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is the third issue of a story, and we pick up shortly after where we left off in the previous issue. Doomsday is on a rampage in Gateway City, despite the fact that–to the best of anyone’s knowledge–the creature was hurled into space some time back, never to return to Earth. As the creature tears up real estate, Wonder Woman is brought into the mix–interrupted from the advisory assistance she’s receiving in identifying the substance the fake-Flash and fake-Sinestro were made out of. Even realizing this is the creature that KILLED Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t hesitate to engage it in battle. While taking her lumps, Champion joins in–though he takes a Supergirl-like hit that takes him out immediately. Seeking to aid her mentor, Cassie retrieves the Sandals of Hermes as well as an unknown artifact and goes to Wonder Woman’s aid. When she’s hit–and nearly killed–it distracts Wonder Woman enough that the beast gets the upper hand, and it looks like this might be game over for our heroine.

Three issues into the story and I’m enjoying stuff…and actually had to “force” myself to NOT dive straight into the next issue. I’m enjoying this story, the art’s good, and I just want to get more of everything. See more of Wonder Woman in action, see more of Cassie and get details of her background, as well as see more of the rest of the supporting cast–Cassie’s mom, Mike, Champion, Wonder Woman as Diana NOT in action…three issues in and this is simply flat-out an enjoyable book!

I had no idea just from the cover what the context of Doomsday’s presence was, but now having read the preceding issues and this one, the creature is a construct created by a computerized process controlled by the “consciousness” of someone’s son. The “clones” are created and programmed, and then let loose on the world, though Kris–who apparently died, but his consciousness was “saved”–can see through the constructs’ eyes. Even though it’s a “fake,” this Doomsday is quite powerful, and not “just” some run-of-the-mill villain, showing up and totally diluting the character. Flash-forward twenty years to present day, and the character is just another of Superman’s rogues–like Darkseid or Mongul. But in 1996, this was before The Doomsday Wars, so Doomsday itself was still an extremely rare villain to actually (or seemingly-actually) show up.

I like the cover (obviously), even though Doomsday is a bit “off” in appearance. This fits with the story, though, and so I can forgive it quite easily. There’s also something rather gratifying about seeing John Byrne handling the character–both from the writing side, and even moreso from the art side, as so much of the Superman mythos at the time of the Doomsday! / The Death of Superman was still closely, tightly tied to the foundation work laid out by Byrne during his tenure on the Superman titles.

This story started with level 1–The Flash, a hero–apparently accidentally causing damage. It continued to level 2 with Sinestro, a villain–causing damage but not outright killing anyone. Then on to level 3 with Doomsday and untold damage and destruction and death. Wonder Woman is facing one of the most powerful things she’s ever faced, and this issue ends trying to convince us of the bad place she’s in…but it’s a comic, it’s #111 where I know the series passed #200, and I don’t recall any other major “Diana-gets-replaced” type stories, so it’s a given she survives. Still, she and her fellow fictional chracters don’t know that as this ends, so it’s on to the next issue to see what comes of this build-up!

And once again, as noted before…EVEN THOUGH this is the third issue of an arc, it still reads like one could pick this up and be no worse off than I was reading the first part of the story. You’re thrust into the action, get a bit of context and new action, and a cliffhanger to lead to the next issue. One story, but each issue could pretty conceivably be someone’s first without them being as totally lost or “coming in mid-story” as one would be picking up the third issue of a present-day arc.

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #110

wonder_woman_0110Level 2

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is only the “second” issue I’ve read in this particular set of issues, but I’m quite enjoying the title. Where the previous issue appeared to guest-star The Flash (only it turned out to be a fake), this issue has an appearance of Sinestro–who at this point in DC‘s continuity was dead, his neck snapped by Hal Jordan just before he went all Parallax and such.

We open on Sinestro/not-Sinestro carving up the city, trying to get Wonder Woman’s attention. Once he has her attention, they battle–or moreso, Wonder Woman battles him, and he just keeps on keeping on…at first seeming like a joke, then an actual-true threat. Eventually, it appears that Wonder Woman’s defeated, and a new guy–Champion–shows up, saving her…though he gets the same result from “Sinestro” as Diana had last issue with “The Flash” as we see that this is just some sort of construct that can self destruct into dust. While Champion (who has himself a back-burner subplot brewing that surely leads to something bigger down the road) and Diana puzzle over the similarities in the Flash attack and now Sinestro, as readers we’re given the inside scoop, as the scene shifts and contextual details are revealed…explaining the fakes’ presence and setting things up for the next couple issues.

As with the previous issue–Wonder Woman #109–I definitely enjoyed this issue. The story and art both worked well in and of themselves, and especially as a cohesive whole. With the same creative and editorial team as the previous issue, this definitely FELT like the next issue. No major changes, no weird oddities…it’s just the continuing story.

Perhaps by comparison to contemporary comics, though, this issue does NOT pick up 100% EXACTLY from the previous issue…it picks up as a “next chapter” without being merely the next chunk of story in a larger graphic novel being ‘serialized’…and I actually like that. I’m all for the singular story of a graphic novel…but for this being a “single issue” I like that–even as a continuing story–it maintains its identity AS the single issue.

The story in this issue fills us in as readers much more than the previous issue…this is where comics worked quite well in the ’90s as both ongoing sagas and having stories that can be collected into a “graphic novel” or such. We (I) had no idea any background on stuff in the previous issue–The Flash simply showed up, turned out to be a fake, and we’re left to wonder what the heck’s going on. THIS issue gives us the context and such on where not only The Flash but also Sinestro came from…and goes beyond that to show us the genesis of the threat for the next issue, serving as setup and cliffhanger, and getting to the last page left me quite ready to get to the next issue. Of course, it wasn’t surprise, as it’s the cover of the next issue that grabbed my attention to begin with.

Even though this is Level 2, a second chapter of a story (though perhaps not quite as solid/singular a story as I’d thought–though it plays into the genesis of these back-from-oblivion characters), one could conceivably pick up this issue and be just as good as starting with the previous issue. You get the characters, some context as you go through, and editorial notes to point you where to go for a bit more expansion of stuff touched on here.

It’s also EXTREMELY REFRESHING that there’s just the one cover, it’s (presumably, since there’s no separate cover credit provided) by the interior artist, so fits both visually AND exaggerates (slightly) a scene that actually appears in the issue, and is not merely some stock or “iconic” image that could be interchanged with any other cover.

First issue, Second issue (in this present read-through, it’s MY second), or just another issue if one is reading a run, this is a strong, solid issue well worth the 20 cents I paid for it!

The ’90s Revisited: Wonder Woman #109

wonder_woman_0109Level 1

Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 1996
Cover Price: $1.95

This is one of those ’90s issues that–while revisiting “the ’90s,” is a new-read for me. I’ve dabbled here and there through the years with this book–getting the odd issue because Superman’s on the cover, or something tied to a comic book course in college, or some cover grabbing my attention or there’s a chapter of a crossover I’m following. I jumped on the book toward the tail-end of Rucka‘s run in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, and then followed for a few issues shortly after, but never stuck with the book for all that long. So while I can’t recite lists of characters–particularly the supporting characters–I’m at least “loosely familiar” with who Wonder Woman is, that the exact “who” she is has shifted a bit through the years, and I know OF some of the major story beats of her series.

So this issue opens with a flight passing over Gateway City, where the Lexair passengers are surprised at the random sight of a girl flying with winged shoes. As readers, we quickly learn that this is Cassie Sandsmark and those are the Sandals of Hermes, and she’s not exactly well-practiced in their use yet. Wonder Woman flies after, and the situation is soon resolved as Cassie figures out–a bit–what she’s doing, and the two get back safely to the apartment Cassie and her mom live in. They then prepare for an evening–Cassie is under Wonder Woman–Diana’s–care, and Diana has a “date” that’s not a date. Unfortunately, the Flash shows up and causes a lot of destruction to the buildings along the street the restaurant’s on and more than a little trouble for Wonder Woman. This isn’t Wally West, though, and when he bursts into dust, no one has any idea what he was or why he was there…leaving Wonder Woman with a mystery on her hands.

I bought a 50-issue run of this series, and one cover that REALLY stood out to me had some iteration of Doomsday on it, which had me quite curious–it’s not an issue I was ever consciously aware of back in the day, nor was it something I knew of AS a Doomsday appearance. Fortunately (or not, depending on perspective) I noticed the “title” of the issue included a “3,” so I checked the previous issue–that had a “2,” so I went back another issue–this one, #109–to find the “1.” I have no idea what happened immediately preceding this issue, nor do I recall what happens after. I’m nearly entirely certain this is AFTER “the Artemis” stuff when Diana ceded her role as Wonder Woman, so she’s “back in the role” now and things are moving along at a good clip.

Story-wise, we’re dropped right into the action, with no immediate context–just story. Being somewhat aware of stuff, I followed along without any trouble. I did not open the issue expecting to “know everything,” and so I was not disappointed. It’s like watching an early episode of some tv series from SEVERAL seasons earlier. I’d forgotten Byrne‘s run on the title, or that it was this early–what I DID remember made me think he’d started on the book more in the early 2000s, so that shows what I know.

Visually, I really enjoy his art here. It works very well with the story, and both Wonder Woman herself and the Flash look good…though through no fault of the art, Cassie does NOT look like I think of her from Geoff JohnsTeen Titans run…which makes sense, as this is from 1996, predating Young Justice by a couple years, and Young Justice itself ran several years before Teen Titans.

All in all, for an issue I had not planned to read, but ended up reading for momentary/immediate ‘context’ to the issue that actually grabbed my attention, I really enjoyed this, and look forward to progressing a couple more issues to the one I actually originally planned to read. This also bodes well for my enjoyment of the run, and of (eventually) filling in the gaps in my Wonder Woman run from the Perez “reboot” through Infinite Crisis.

The ’90s Revisited: The Flash #142

flash0142Get Me to the Church On Time

Writers: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn
Pencils: Pop Mhan
Inks: Chris Ivy
Letters: Gaspar
Colors: Tom McCraw
Assistant Editor: L.A. Williams
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: October 1998
Cover Price: $1.99

This is one of those issues whose cover served as an extremely powerful selling point: “The Wedding of The Flash.” OK. I knew Wally and Linda were married…and that it happened SOMETIME before #200, as that was about the time their kids were born, and I was pretty sure they’d been married awhile prior. So spotting this in the quarter bin without any significant “run” to grab, I still figured it would be a good one-off/isolated issue to read.

We open on Wally dealing with Kobra and his crew, and find he’s got a very personal stake in dealing with the current situation: the terrorists are quite inconsiderate, after all, attacking on his wedding day. Linda and Wally put the last-second finishing touches on wedding plans as Linda’s family arrives. While things get into motion for the wedding, Wally can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s wrong or forgotten. The Justice League arrives, and there’s still no villain attack to disrupt things…as Wally and Linda get a moment to confirm they’re going through with the wedding. As the couple prepares to deliver their wedding vows, Wally realizes exactly what he’s forgotten: writing his. Of course, he doesn’t need to write them–he just reflects quickly on their time together, what they’ve been through–and he’s good. As he slips the ring onto Linda’s finger, there’s a flash of light, and he’s alone with no recollection of Linda’s existence nor that they were at the altar to be wed…while a mysterious figure looks on as Linda screams for help.

As said, the issue’s cover grabbed me. This is “THE” wedding issue. Great, ok, cool. Regular-sized, nothing fancy, just a one-issue key moment, something that happens, but while the same length as any other moment in time, is still one of those key moments one can go back to. Right? And being so used to covers “spoiling” otherwise ‘surprise’ villains or guest-stars, giving away what the issue is about (yet, the cover DOES have to “sell” one on buying the issue if they aren’t already planning to, and I’m certainly guilty of disliking generic, unrelated covers)…I figured I knew what this issue was, and was just going through the motions reading/enjoying the story, but I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. But surprise me it did, and now I very definitely want to read more.

The story itself is very good, mixing “regular” super-speed action letting us see the Flash do what he does, and that not EVERY threat has to be spread across exactly six issues of formulaic structure for a graphic novel collection. Some threats can be handled in a few pages to move the story along. Also signifying this being from an age when there were no routine collections of every half-dozen or so issues, the credits page is worked into the story itself somewhat cinematically–or at least, in a “tv” sort of fashion…showing the Kobra attack to be mere prologue to fulfill our expectation of the Flash in action in-costume and allowing the rest of the issue to focus on Wally, Linda, and co. for the wedding itself. Working other key characters in–like Impulse and Nightwing were nice touches, and though I’m more aware of than familiar with Bart, I appreciated the bit with him and seeing dynamics of “the Flash Family” that I’ve often read of but read very little of myself as yet.

The art is good, and really never left me wondering. It’s not my favorite visual style, and is rather “isolated” here as I’ve not read any significant runs on this title in probably almost a decade. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more in context, and assume it’s consistent with surrounding issues. Where varying visual styles play on actual memory for me with the Superman family of titles, I don’t have that for the Flash, which for every issue of the title I read makes me further regret never jumping in back in the ’90s when these were fresh, current, ongoing episodes of the character.

Despite mentioning “isolation” above in regards to finding this issue and how I see the art on it…the issue on the whole is not the quasi-self-contained or isolated unit I was expecting. I thankfully never got the sense that I “should have” read the previous issue to “get” what’s going on here, so it’s easy to jump INTO…but it certainly doesn’t have a hard-stop point to conclude, and successfully leaves me eager to read more, to find out who the mystery-villain is, to see how Wally and Linda get out of this mess…find out if this truly IS “the wedding issue” or if that “moment” occurs down the road in another issue, etc.

For a one-issue quarter-bin find, this issue was more than worthwhile, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would (in retrospect) gladly pay several dollars for it (though for bulk/quantity I’d prefer to get to load up on the series from quarter-bins!).

The ’90s Revisited: The Flash Plus #1

flashplus0001nightwingThe Flash + Nightwing: Doorway to Nightmare

Story: Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn
Pencils: Eduardo Barreto
Inks: Gerry Fernandez
Letterer: Gasper
Colorist: Ian Laughlin
Assistant Editor: Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 1997
Cover Price: 2.95

I’ve seen a number of these Character Plus+ issues through the years…acquired some myself, even…though I don’t know that I’ve ever actually gotten around to reading any. But being in a Flash mood recently, and this being extra-sized as well as knowing it “had to” be more of a one-shot, it was something I knew immediately would be well worth a quarter, fishing it out of a quarter bin.

Wally and Dick are headed out on vacation. Dick’s a bit peeved that Wally yet again failed to do the planning for their vacation, so he had to make all the plans/arrangements. And Wally–impatient as always–is not happy being stuck in a car to make their way to a destination rather than being able to simply run under his own speed. The two arrive in New Orleans at a haunted house/attraction…and though Wally couldn’t see how there’d be anything special to it, the two soon find themselves up to their necks in trouble. They ultimately uncover plans of an alien invasion and must work together to stop it, beat back existing aliens, and save the world.

…Which is a really simplistic summation of the issue, considering its extra size. But I’m not writing this as a wiki piece of the issue–this was yet another of my embracing a ’90s comic and enjoying it.

With The New 52 having done away with the DC Universe I grew up on several years ago, and Wally being sidelined for years before that, I’d forgotten about the friendship he and Dick shared. Both started out as sidekicks (Robin and Kid Flash), both “graduated” into their own identities–Dick as Nightwing, Wally embracing and living up to his part in the Flash legacy), both are now (at this point in the continuity) adults, and there’s that sense of history and friendship with them…at least from my knowledge of the characters.

The cover is rather generic…yet I definitely enjoy it. I like the shadowy effect with mostly-black, but the lightning in the background showing us key parts of the characters and their costumes so we know who they are. I’m pretty sure genuine lighting doesn’t work that way in actuality…but the effect for this image is plenty cool enough for my eye! I also like the quasi-“grid” effect at the top…whether it’s supposed to be part of the logo or not, it reminds me of classic DC covers in a very subtle way.

The art on the interior is quite good, and I enjoyed it. It was solid, conveying what needed to be conveyed, and never particularly took me out of the story; there were no pages that left me curious about creative human anatomy or if I missed something, and so on. Truth be told, I actually hardly noticed it, which is how I’d prefer: I should enjoy the story in general, and not be relying on the art to carry a poor story nor be taken out of a good story by poor art. I’m not yet familiar enough with this period of The Flash or Nightwing to know offhand if Barreto is the “regular” artist for either character…but while specials and annuals can often have the “look” of being just some random story or fill-in with a non-series-regular artist, this issue did not have that feel for me.

That this issue IS basically a one-shot and not part of a crossover, longer story, event, or so on nor an Annual for either title, I don’t think we’d get something like this today. A single issue playing well within what I’m aware of continuity-wise with both characters, yet doesn’t rely on an individual/ongoing story for either nor require reading of both titles…and lacking a specific-arc tie-in and not ending with a lead-in to some other story…this is a unique piece of history, and an issue well worth its cover price.

Some of the quality probably does come from this being written by Waid/Augustyn–names I’m starting to notice repeatedly cropping up together, though I was already aware of Waid‘s significant (and highly-praised) run on the Flash title. This one issue gives us a good beginning, middle, and end; as well as giving insight into both characters, while sticking primarily with the Flash (Nightwing IS the “plus” after all, not the headlining character).

In an age of $4 comics, where I got to buy and read this for 1/16th that price, by default the issue is very much worth what I paid for it. Even at full cover price, though, this issue would seem to me quite worthwhile compared to a modern issue, and “experiencing” the quality of the story from nearly two decades ago for myself continues to build my interest in reading “classic” Wally West Flash stories, and put shame to the notion of all ’90s comics being crappy stories and periods for characters.

The ’90s Revisited: Green Lantern #81

greenlantern0081nFuneral for a Hero

Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Darryl Banks
Inks: Romeo Tanghal
Color: Pamela Rambo
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: December 1996
Cover Price: $1.75

“That was a good issue.” That was my initial thought on closing this, the first time I’ve ever read the issue. Oh, there were some odd bits here and there, but the oddity largely comes from my present knowledge of stuff in 2016 contrasting with reading a book that’s some 19+ years old.

This issue gives us the funeral of Hal Jordan. Though this is functionally #31 of Kyle’s series, and he was introduced to “replace” Hal in the title…until now, Hal had not actually been dead. He’d first simply become Parallax, destroyed the Corps and then been “not on Earth.” He returned in Zero Hour trying to re-write reality, to fix things…and was stopped. I recall (though not in much conscious detail) the #0 issue of Green Lantern…of Hal and Kyle interacting, and I believe the then-destruction of Oa, and I think I’d figured Hal was out of the picture. He then came back in The Final Night, where he sacrificed himself to save Earth and re-ignite the sun…which brings us to this issue.

Kyle has created a cathedral construct for all the mourners, in part of the crater that was once Coast City. We see the arrival of Jon Stewart and Donna Troy, and Donna’s reunion with Dick Grayson; she officially introduces Dick to Kyle. We see there are quite a number of individuals gathered–some heroes, some villains, some not even “invited.” (But that’s life, innit?) Superman speaks, followed by Guy Gardner and Jon Stewart (former GLs both), then Dinah Lance (Black Canary) on behalf of Oliver Queen (deceased at this point in continuity). The Flash (Wally West) speaks, followed by Carol Ferris…and the service concludes with Kyle. Next, the mourners move outside, where the memorial “eternal” flame for Coast City is magically transformed into a GREEN flame (Hal now reunited with the city he so loved) by the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott. Finally, Swamp Thing causes a massive growth of plant life in the crater…transforming the lifeless, desolate pit into a massive green space to honor the fallen hero…while Kyle erects a statue construct of Hall at the heart of it.

While many might say that you need to have constant action, constant “big stuff” happening, huge events, every issue must be merely a chapter in an ongoing story…I myself am very much a huge fan of self-contained one-shots…and of quiet, personal stories. A couple of my favorite X-Men comics involve the characters at home, just being themselves and interacting…not saving the world or facing some catastrophic event or the latest apocalyptic villain. This issue is like that. No huge action-event. No action-stars. No villain crashing the party and making trouble. This is not part 1 of some epilogue mini-SERIES to examine the death of Hal. This is not a “bridge” issue shepherding us from the last event right into the next.

This is a quiet, moving story where we get to see a number of DC characters interacting as themselves, in context of a loss. Perhaps there should be mention that the WORLD has just nearly ended, but there’s not even that–this isn’t “just” a follow-up to The Final Night…this is simply a story of people coming together to mourn the death of a man whose life had–in some way–touched all of theirs. And I suppose the way I’m going on and on like this ought to “say” enough in itself, outside of these words I’m typing.

For me–having grown up through the ’90s, having been quite immersed in DC‘s continuity (if only on the Superman side) through much of this period, being “aware of” if not directly following every title–this is an instant classic. I paid $3.99 to buy this from a back-issue bin; no bargain-bin or quarter-bin…just a “full priced back issue” in this case. The $3.99–just over double original cover price–makes this issue a “match” for any current 2016 issue…yet to me, the quality far exceeds most anything I’ve read recently from DC.

To say the least…the writing for this issue is great, and my sole complaint would be what feels like a tacked-on bit from Batman for the sake of a pretty bow on the situation, quite opposite of how Batman would be portrayed through later years until Infinite Crisis nearly a decade after this.

Banks‘ art is fantastic as well…I have no complaints on the visuals, and to me the only way characters seem slightly “off” visually I think is that they look almost “too human.” There’s a deep authenticity to me here, between the visuals and story combined…as any comic book should be! And unlike contemporary comics that seem full of silent or near-wordless 2-page spreads…this issue has an example of where something like that is truly justified…giving us a huge, powerful moment…whose silence echoes loudly as we see the interior of the cathedral, the pews full of mourners, Kyle and Donna moving through.

greenlantern0081cThe copy of this issue that I bought has a $1.75 cover price…which honestly surprised me, as I’d thought all DC books were $1.95 or so at this point. Based on the barcode on the cover and no “Direct Edition” text, I can only assume this is a true “newsstand edition” copy…and perhaps these editions were slightly cheaper than the comic shop editions. (I do recall the X-books having a similar thing with a cheaper lower-paper-quality edition and then the more expensive, high-quality-paper “deluxe edition”). This would be yet another difference with contemporary comics…as in 2016 I have observed the “newsstand” editions being seemingly-arbitrarily priced at $1 more than normal.

All said…this was a great issue, and very much worth my $4, putting virtually any current comic to shame, value-wise by comparison. And it only took me some 16+ years to get around to paying a “premium price” to acquire and get to read this issue.

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